Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in our nation, and half of Americans have one of the three key risk factors that contribute to heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Despite these statistics, many remain uninsured or underinsured, leading to many unnecessary deaths.
Cardiovascular disease encompasses several different type of heart problems, including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia or heart valve problems. Many of these conditions are a result of atherosclerosis – plaque build-up on the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can make it more difficult for blood to flow through to your heart, causing people to experience a heart attack or stroke.
Although you can take action to help prevent cardiovascular disease, once you have a heart condition, you may need to be regularly monitored by medical professionals, consider surgery or access cardiac medications. All options are expensive. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) worked to expand coverage for patients with cardiovascular disease and ensure people had access to care. Yet, a recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance found that over 20 million Americans with cardiovascular disease or serious risk factors did not have insurance coverage nearly three years after the ACA was implemented. Why? Cost.
“We have very effective medications and other interventions to prevent death and disability for patients at risk for heart disease or stroke.” said lead study author Ameen Barghi, a medical student at HMS in a Harvard web article. “But millions of people still can't afford that potentially lifesaving care despite the progress made under the ACA. And the result is likely to be thousands of unnecessary deaths.”
And even if patients are insured, their plan may not cover their cardiac medication. A new study found that insurers rejected 61 percent of the prescriptions for a new drug, PCSK9 inhibitors, that has been proven to significantly improve health outcomes for patients with cardiovascular disease. The majority of these patients had serious risk factors or a history of atherosclerosis.
“This real-world evidence highlights that over eighty thousand individuals being treated for cardiovascular disease or familial hypercholesterolemia had a significantly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes when their PCSK9 therapy prescription was rejected or unfilled,” Kelly Myers, chief technology officer at the FH Foundation, told Reuters. “Coverage decisions that do not take into consideration an individual’s high risk, especially for those with genetic conditions like FH, are a failure of our health system to prevent heart attacks, stroke and death.”
Unfortunately, efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease aren’t always successful. When this happens, patients shouldn’t have to worry about being uninsured, underinsured or unable to afford their health coverage. Join us and help ensure all Americans can have a healthy heart.